Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom: ISBNs

 I have over twenty indie books in print. To get ISBNs for those books, I had been going to Smashwords. Now, if you get a free ISBN from Smashwords, they become the publisher of record. I didn't want that, because it had 'indie' written all over it. At the time, indie was just beginning to ramp up and 'not very cool.' So after my first five books, I bought my ISBNs from Smashwords, at $9.95 a piece.

Little did I realize, they don't have you pay for those ISBNs up front. They take it out of your payment for your books. Since I went with Barnes & Noble and Amazon myself and didn't have Smashwords handle the distribution, I didn't really make a lot of money on Smashwords. Thus, I ended up having most of my pen name accounts there in the red (I don't consider Sweettale Books a publisher, because I don't want to get an LLC, thus, each of my pen names has its own Smashwords account).

I realized the more books I published, the more I'd owe Smashwords. At $9.95 an ISBN, there had to be a different way. And I found it, I think.

Bowker.com is the only ISBN seller in the U.S. It's not cheap, and if you buy the ISBNs in bulk, you pay a lot of money. A single ISBN is $125. Ten ISBNs are $250 ($25 an ISBN). 100 ISBNS are $575, which is $5.75 a piece. That's almost half what they cost on Smashwords. And, if I'm feeling very industrious, 1000 ISBNs are $1000 (a dollar a piece).

Considering I have a lot more unpublished books on my computer, paying a lot less for each ISBN is worthwhile to me. But I don't need 1000 ISBNs. So I opted for 100 of those things, which should last me quite a while (I have about 35 unpublished books which leaves me 65 more ISBNs for future books...and at four or five books a year, that'll take me over ten years to use up).

Now, the normal author writes a lot fewer books than I write and don't have unpublished books on their computer. I have three friends who pooled their money and formed a type of publisher, using that name to register their ISBNs. When they need an ISBN, they just pay for it, register it with Bowker, and they have it cheaper than Smashwords would give them.

When you purchase the ISBNs from Bowker, you register the book with them at that time. You have to upload the cover and the book, indicate the genre and rights, and just about anything else considered. It's a lot of work, but I consider it a type of copyright, since the date's attached. It's not a formal copyright (those are around $40 a piece with the Library of Congress), but at least it's recorded somewhere.

Now, when I uploaded a book to Smashwords, the dashes were moved around in the ISBN. I'm not sure why or what that means, so I've written to Smashwords to find out.

Anyway, that's what I've been doing, so I can publish my next book, Kissing the Waves, by Markee Anderson. It'll be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble within a few days.

Have a great day,
SweetTale Books

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Teaser: 'Love Means Nothin''




*~*~* Blurb *~*~*

Melody Gray visits New York City to attend her best friend's wedding, meeting tennis pro John Spencer at the train station, and stopping him from running away from his life. She loves spending time with him, finding herself wishing she could stay with him instead of returning to her abusive father in West Virginia. But she knows her father needs her to take care of him, and since John's famous mother and others surrounding John let her know she doesn't belong, she realizes she'll never be able to be near the man she loves again.


*~*~*~*


Excerpt from Chapter 3:

After arriving at Battery Park, they all got out of the car. While Chuck went to get tickets for the ferry, Melody looked out over the water, watching a ferry return to the lower end of Manhattan. She could see the Statue of Liberty fairly well in the distance, making her feel very fortunate to be at the site.

"Isn't that the girl?" someone asked from behind Melody.

She turned her head, and two big men with cameras headed toward her. "Yes! It's her! Get a shot!"

Dennis grabbed her and pulled her to his chest. "We have to get out of here," he said to everyone in the group.

"But my dad's not here yet," Elise said.

Other reporters started to run toward them, and Melody peeked out from under Dennis' arm.

A large man walked toward Elise, staring at the reporters. Behind him was a gangly man with red hair. "What's going on here?" His accent was pronounced, and Melody knew who he was. She hid her face in Dennis' chest.

"Are you okay?" Dennis whispered.

She could only nod, then turned and looked back at the huge man.

"Daddy! I'm so glad you're here," Elise said.

He thrust his hands on his hips. "Who are these people?"

"Reporters," Elise whispered.

The man faced the people gawking at Melody. "Look. My name is Hank Johnson and you'd better be leavin' my daughter alone, or you're going to have to answer to me."

"Who are you?" a reporter asked.

"I'm her dad," he said, pointing at Elise.

"And I'm her brother Bobby," the gangly man said.

"We don't care about her," a reporter answered. "It's the other redhead we want. Melody Gray." His cameraman took pictures of Melody, so she closed her eyes and buried her face in Dennis' chest. Tears filled her eyes as she covered the sides of her face with her hands so they couldn't get a good shot of her.

"Mel? Is that you?' Bobby asked. "Gosh, I've missed you a lot! We have to go out sometime."

"No, she's taken." Dennis leaned down to her while Elsie's father and Chuck argued with the cameraman. Melody could only glance out at the group, terrified of the reporters surrounding them and shouting questions.

"You are?" Bobby asked Melody, then pointed up at Dennis' face. "By him? I can beat him up if you want, to prove I'm the one for ya."

"No, Bobby," she said, turning her head. "Let it go. Please?"

"Is this a lover's quarrel?" a reporter yelled. "Where's John Spencer?"

Melody covered her face and hid in Dennis' chest again.

He leaned down to her ear. "Are you okay?"

She lifted her head and faced him. "Not really. I've never had anyone taking my picture like this. They're stalking me, aren't they?"

"Yes, they are and it's scary if you're not used to it."

A camera snapped and the reporters started yelling questions at her.

"Are you dating John Spencer?"

"Is this your boyfriend?"

"Are you carrying an alien's baby?"

She wasn't sure what they were talking about, especially the line about the alien's baby. She moved her head back to Dennis' chest, wishing they'd just all go away.

Dennis turned her to the side, put his arm on her shoulder, then walked her back toward the car.

"Let the lady alone," he said. "Party's over."

"Who are you?" one reporter asked.

Dennis stopped walking and faced the man. "No one you want to mess with. Now, go away." He walked with Melody to the car, joined by Elise's family and Chuck.


Buy Links:

Smashwords
All Romance eBooks
OmniLit
Amazon
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
Amazon ES
Amazon IT
Barnes & Noble
Sony e-book Store
Kobo
Apple Store
Diesel E-books

Smiles,
Markee

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Fun: Fun Ways to Waste Time...LOL!

 Let's face it...you can only work so many hours a day without some sort of brain damage setting in. Personally, I stop when my brain tells me it's bored. I usually play Spider solitaire or Freecell, or go to Neopets and play Destruct-o-Match (it's addicting). But sometimes, I go to social media for that injection of anti-boredom.

Here are a few places that I find interesting:



Do you have any other places you like to visit?

Smiles,
Markee


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom: Creating Characters

 Do you recall your favorite character in a book? What did you like/hate about them the best? What made them stand apart from other characters from other books?

To me, a character has to be memorable. They have to have an internal conflict (something personal that they're working through) as well as an external pull to make them rethink the internal conflict. For example, in 'Cameo Appearance,' Cameo was trying to hide from a murderer, but Reggie wanted her to marry him. She didn't want to be in the limelight, but Reggie was a prince, automatically upping the conflict for poor Cameo.

Sometimes, they have a trait that can't be denied. For example, Reggie kept saying, 'most definitely,' because that's what they said on his home island. Cameo, on the other hand, didn't want to be noticed, telling Reggie she'd be fine without his help.

Make the characters realistic, reacting like a normal person to various conflicts.  For example, if a tornado's heading toward the character, don't make them decide to make dinner at that point in time.  They need to react and get to safety.  Or if they're getting an IV, make it hurt.  Show how the character wants to beat up the nurse or something.

Your character also needs a 'place' in the story.  Are they the protagonist (the good guy), the antagonist (the bad guy), the love interest, or maybe the sidekick?  How do they help or hinder the protagonist?  That'll help define their characteristics, as well.

Every character needs a goal.  Make sure you know that goal for the character before you write the book.

I looked up a few references to indicate other things to consider when writing characters. Here are a few references of note:





Smiles,
Markee

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Teaser: 'Saved by the Glass Slipper'




*~*~* Blurb *~*~*


Someone is chasing Amy Watson in the small western Florida community. After running into an adorable man named Mark Dallas at the beach, she realizes he's not all he seems to be, becoming almost like a superhero to her. He has bodyguards from his business—a gaming software company named Madcap—and seems to know all the big shots in town. But when she confronts him, he just says he's an ordinary programmer. When a dead body is found in Amy's apartment, it's time that Mark sets the record straight, leading them on a scavenger hunt around the nation to find out why Amy's being targeted. Could it be because she's collaborated with the NSA to tell them how to do their job, or maybe her ties to the Department of Homeland Security to explain how to find terrorists without racial profiling? Or maybe it's a simple game of cat and mouse, hunting for something long lost. Regardless, Amy and Mark are on the run, to save her life while she gains the infamous glass slipper in Mark Dallas' world.


*~*~*~*


Excerpt from Chapter 5:

"I guess I'm not going to church today," I whined as we stepped inside the beautiful private jet. It was decorated in silver, red, and black, with overstuffed chairs rather than airplane seats. There were tables near some of the seats and Mark moved me toward one of the biggest tables. Sitting across from him, I felt like I was in the principal's office.

"No, you're not going to church," he said. "Because you'd be a sitting duck there. If they'd kill the man in your apartment, it could be you next. Sorry, but no church."

"I knew you'd get out of it," I muttered, looking around at the leather chairs.

"I need to talk to you anyway." He walked to the back of the plane and grabbed a folder, a laptop, some paper, and a book. "Buckle your seatbelt. The pilot's ready to take off."

"Sure." Doing as I was told, I realized I was riding backward. I hoped I didn't get sick.

Mark sat down, buckled his seatbelt and opened the file in front of him. "This is what the NSA told us they needed." He stared at me with those blue eyes and I wanted to die. "This is completely confidential. Got it?"

"Sure. I'm good with confidential. You should know that by now."

He read over his papers. "Not when you're drunk."

"What was that comment?"

He looked up at me and leaned over the table while whispering. "If the enemy ever finds out that you can't hold your liquor, we're all in big trouble. I'm supposed to desensitize you to that."

"You are?"

"Yes. I had a meeting this morning with some very high up and classified members of the government."

I leaned closer so I could hear him whisper. "You did? When?"

"While you were sleeping. It doesn't matter." He sat back and looked at his papers again. "You need to explain some of your thesis to me."

"Considering I don't even have a copy of it and finished it a semester ago—"

He handed me a book. It was plain and had a brown cover, with the title 'Jolly Old Cryptology' on it."

"Who thought up this title?"

"Some joker. It's your thesis."

"It is?" I opened the first page of the thick book and read over it. It sounded like my thesis, but my name was nowhere to be found. "So it is. What do you want to know?"

"Explain the part in chapter twenty-one. The NSA guys are having problems programming it."

"Programming it?"

"Yep."

"I see. Have you read to chapter twenty-one?" I leafed through to about page one-fifty.

"Not yet, but if you can explain it to me so it makes sense, it'll make sense to the NSA guys when you tell them."

I lowered my voice and closed the book, handing it back to him. "Oh, no. I'm not dealing with government agents. They'll probably kill me if I even sneeze."

Mark started to laugh, handing the book back to me. "They're not going to do that. I promise. Remember, this is all under the radar and no one in the government knows the NSA is coming to us at all."

I sighed, hating being in this position, then turned to chapter twenty-one again. "What do you want to know?"

"I want to know how you do it. Explain your thesis to me."

"Oh, that's easy, but I need a laptop."

He opened the laptop in front of him and plugged it into a hidden outlet in the floor, then turned it on. I watched as he clicked on a few things, then he moved it to face me and showed me some code. "This is as far as they got. Explain it to me."

I studied the code with my mouth hanging. They'd programmed some of my thesis, for real?

The plane taxied to the runway and in the meantime, I went back a few chapters and explained what the current mindset was, then showed him on paper. The plane took off and as soon as it leveled, I explained some problems they had with their programming. I showed him a diagram of how things could be bent to change what they were currently using into something better, then told him in vague terms what would need to be done to the program to make it work, but never gave him exactly what he needed, on purpose. I still didn't trust anyone. However, he had enough to keep the NSA guys going for a while.

Buy links:

Smashwords
All Romance eBooks
OmniLit
Amazon (UK) (DE) (ES) (IT)
Barnes & Noble
Sony e-book Store
Kobo
Apple Store
Diesel E-books

Ciao,
Andie

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fun: Perfect Gift for Valentine's Day

 This is the coolest story:  http://www.absurdstories.com/perfect-gift-for-valentines-day

So there's this island near Croatia that looks like a heart. The island's uninhabited, and the owner said it's the perfect place for lovers to spend alone.

OK...so I'm thinking of this scenario.  You're married to a very rich spouse, who on Valentine's Day, books us a trip to a heart-shaped uninhabited island.  Assuming there are amenities (hotel, etc.), what would you do if you were stuck on an uninhabited island for a week?  Other than the obvious for Valentine's Day, what fun activities would you dream up?

I think I'd get bored.  LOL!

Smiles,
Markee

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom: Building a Community

 Last night, we went to a small pizza shop for dinner. It was Valentine's Day and I knew there wouldn't be many people there. This place has a sense of community, with people who care surrounding the customers. It was started by a few people from New York City (authentic, too...accent and all), who decided Green Bay, Wisconsin, needed some good pizza (I agree). The food is very good, taking me back to when I lived on the East Coast. They serve the type of pizza you can fold, with the grease dripping off the end. The walls are decorated with NYC memorabilia...a view of the city with the twin towers displayed, Yankees memorabilia for baseball fans, and tons of tons of pictures of celebrities who frequent New York (Joe Pesci, Robert DeNiro, etc.). That tiny shop has brought a sense of New York, their hometown community, to Green Bay. I get the sense that I've stepped out of the Wisconsin winter and right into downtown New York when I walk inside.

When you write a book, you truly need to establish a community for your characters, a place to call home, with friends surrounding them. Memorable characters and distant memories of what home used to be like will give your plots more life, grounding the reader to a setting.

Sometimes, the story takes place in a city or town that isn't the character's normal haunt. For example, in 'Get Me Out of Africa,' Kes was forced to travel to Zimbabwe by her awful boss, taking her out of her hometown of Denver. She was out of her element. But the 'community' for her became the people she met along the way, and eventually, she allowed her boss to become part of her community, trusting him more than ever by the end of the book.

Community will help define the setting, giving the characters something to believe in and to fight for. When you write, make sure you include how the community helps the character win their battles.

So who do you put in this community? I think of a community, somewhat like they had in the old west. I add in the following types of characters, some of whom overlap (for example, the main character might be the main authority figure for the community). Sometimes I let a character type out or add someone else in, but these are the basics.
  • the main character, who is the focus of the story (sometimes it's two people, struggling together)
  • an authority figure
  • a moral figure, to keep everyone on the up-and-up
  • the bad guy (sometimes, this isn't a person, but may be the setting, as in a hurricane)
  • comic relief
  • sidekick/confidante
  • family members
Who else do you add in your stories?

Ciao,
Andie

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Teaser: 'Heapin' Helping of Three Cross Faith'






*~*~* Blurb *~*~*
 

Niki Daniels is hurt when a taxi hits her from behind. Little does she know, the customer is none other than her new client, Austin Cole. He's a Christian praise singer, and she's just been named his manager.

Austin demands that everyone working with him are Christian, so Niki makes a point to hide the fact that God abandoned her years ago, and she's turned away from Him.

Austin used to be a neurosurgeon, but gave it up when his wife was killed. He is now a rancher in a tiny town south of Midland, Texas, where he lives with his young daughter. His goal is to change lives and turn souls toward God with his music.

Since Niki is his client and patient, he negotiates bringing her to his home, questioning her lack of faith and secret past.




*~*~*~*



Excerpt:

He leaned down to her ear as he pushed her toward the door. "Mr. Glick. Remember him?"

"Yes, I do." She inched her head toward the side, pointing behind her. "Wait. I want the flowers you brought me." He stopped, but didn't go back to the flowers. She tilted her head backward, watching him stare down at her from above.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Yes, I'm sure. I loved those flowers. No one else sent me any and I appreciate it." She was being sincere, hoping she didn't sound condescending.

"Yes, ma'am." He walked back to the bed and got the vase filled with beautiful flowers, and placed it in her lap. She held onto the huge clear glass vase, leaned closer, and smelled the flowers. As much as she wanted to stay detached from Austin, the thought that he gave her flowers was almost more than she could handle. It had been so long since someone had done something nice for her.

She felt the tears behind her eyes, but tried to hold them back, thinking of something to keep her from crying. But nothing came to mind. As a professional, she couldn't show her emotions, however, keeping things from Austin would be tough. He seemed to know how to get under her skin, to make her show her inner self. She had to put up the walls and turn the tables on him so she wouldn't reveal herself to him except in a professional manner.

They took a taxi to the airport, and then he helped her into the small eight-seat plane.

"Are you sure this will make it?" she asked. Something suddenly hit her as odd. "Where's my car?"

"It's back at your apartment." He handed her the keys to her place. "This plane will make it. You're allowed to sleep. I promise no one will say a word if you snore."

"I don't snore."

"Don't worry about it." He helped her into a seat, knelt in front of her, and buckled the seatbelt for her.

"I can do that."

"But not in your car when driving to work." He looked up at her face. He seemed so caring, Niki had to stop her heart from racing and slow her breathing. "I do this for Sarah, too," he said. "She loves flying."

Niki felt her mouth fall open as she stared at the handsome man. "She's three. How much does she fly?"

He stood up. "A lot. Dallas loves taking the kids up to have lunch in different cities, and flies 'em back to Texas. It drives me nuts."

"I bet. Don't you worry?"

"Yes, ma'am. All the time." He sat beside her and nodded toward the pilot while buckling his own seatbelt. "We're ready when you are."

"Thank you, sir." The man closed the curtain separating the cabin from the rest of the plane and backed away from the terminal.

The plane taxied to the runway and Niki held onto the armrests, her fists turning white. She closed her eyes and lowered her head as far as the neck brace allowed.

"Are you scared?" Austin asked her, making her open her eyes.

"Very. I'm not good at flying."

His hand covered hers. "You'll be fine." He removed her hand from the armrest with a chuckle and surrounded it with his warm fingers. "Relax and pray, Niki."

"I can't pray. I'm not religious, remember?"

He leaned closer to her ear, his Stetson touching the top of her head. "Do you know how to pray?"

"No. God hates me, remember?"

"He doesn't hate you. I wish you'd tell me why you think that's true."

"I can't. Let it go."

She closed her eyes, hearing his voice praying for safety and forgiveness in her ear. But her mind was thinking about her life and how she'd hidden herself away. She was certain this plane ride was the end of the line and she'd never realize her dreams.

Niki glanced toward Austin when he said Amen. "Is that it? That was a short prayer."

"Yes, ma'am. Just a little message thanking God for watching out for us. I really wish you'd talk to me and let someone help you. Life would be so much better for you if you did."

She bit her lips and looked out the window. The engines geared up and Niki closed her eyes. She was terrified, but when Austin's arm rested on her shoulders, she felt more relaxed.

"You're going to be fine," he said into her ear. "Don't worry so much."

She clenched her fists. "I hate this."

"I know. Just relax and leave it in someone else's hands. Have faith, God will get us through this."

That was easy for him to say. God loved him.

The plane headed down the runway and lifted off the ground. Austin pulled her head to his chest, while tears of fear filled her eyes. The scent of his aftershave filled her senses, reminding her he was a client and she couldn't get involved. But he was also a man and protecting her in the shadow of death.

The plane climbed into the air, and as soon as they leveled off, Austin unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up. He walked away while tears trickled down Niki's cheeks. Clouds sat right outside the window, but they couldn't hold the plane in the air. A sudden air pocket jolted the plane. She wasn't ready to die, slamming her eyes shut while holding onto the armrests even more. With her nails dug into the fabric, she held her breath, waiting for the roller coaster to subside.

"Drink this," Austin said.

Niki opened her eyes to a bottle of water held in front of her.

"Take it," he said. "It'll help your ears adjust to the pressure difference."

"I can't move my hands."

He sat beside her, took her hand in his, and looked into her face. "Think of this like a car ride, going up and down hills. Relax a little. I promise it'll be fine."

"I wish I could."

"If you can't, I have a med kit in the back and can give you a sedative. Do you want that?"

"No, I don't want drugs. I want to get off the plane." She removed the seat belt and stood up.

"You can't get off the plane." He forced her to her seat. "We're in the air already."

"Oh, yeah. That would hurt a lot. Sorry about that." She covered her face with her hands, feeling the nausea start in her stomach.

He buckled her back into her seat and walked away, returning in a moment.

She felt something cold on her skin and by the time she turned her head, she saw the needle enter her arm, screaming out in pain. "What's that?"

He sat beside her again. "Just something to take the edge off. How do you handle traveling with tours if you don't fly?"

"When we fly, we use bigger planes that have the power to stay in the air. I usually make the tour cities closer together, and encourage them to use a tour bus. That way, I can drive behind the bus and I'm in control." She paused in thought. "When I get to Texas, I need to rent a car."

"You don't need a car. I have transportation."

"No, I need a car and I'm paying for it. That's not a negotiable point. I have to feel like I'm not a prisoner or beholden to anyone."

He sat back and smiled. "I understand that. I feel that way when I'm in the city and have to use a taxi. I'll have a car rental ready for you."

"Good." She nodded toward her purse, at her feet. "My credit card's in there if you can reach it for me. I'm too scared."

"We don't have to do that right now."

"Get it when you need it." Niki closed her eyes. "I'm really tired."

"That's the plan."


Buy links (99 cent book):
 Smashwords
 Amazon Amazon UK Amazon DE Amazon ES Amazon IT
 (Click here for a Free Kindle PC Reader)
 Barnes & Noble
 Sony e-book Store
 Kobo
 Apple Store
 Diesel E-books
 All Romance eBooks
 OmniLit

Blessings,
Eryn Grace

Friday, February 10, 2012

Indiepublishers.blogspot.com

Cameo Appearance is on a blog today! YAY!!!



Go check it out here: www.indiepublishers.blogspot.com.

Thank you, Lisa, for posting it! :)

Smiles,
Markee

Friday Fun: Feeling Stupid? Not After You Read These Quotes From Famous People!

 I stumbled upon this gem on the Internet. I remember this being passed around in emails a while ago, but it's still funny.

Check it out at strangecosmos.com.


Here are a few of the highlights, my favorites:
"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life." -- Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign.

"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm just the one to do it." --A congressional candidate in Texas.

"Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances." --Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina

I would bet my kids would nominate some of my comments for that list. LOL!

Have a wonderful and hilarious Friday!
Kyra

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom: Creating/Formatting ebooks

 You've written a wonderful book and now you want to publish it. You look on various publishing sites, and even though most of them take a Microsoft Word document, you want the thing to look at professional as possible, maybe even seeing the finished .mobi or .epub book yourself.

Now what do you do? Some people I know hire companies to do this work for them. Others learn html and xhtml just to get their books perfect.

But there's another way. If you do a search on 'creating ebooks,' you'll see various products that will help you create an ebook.

I used to do the html for my ebooks, but found a product (a recommendation of a writer friend of mine) called Jutoh. It's at www.jutoh.com. It has a few minor things that need to be addressed, but overall, I like the product. I needed the product to make a .epub so I could put my books on www.allromanceebooks.com, thinking I'd only use it for that. However, once I started using it, I now use it for Smashwords, .epub, and .mobi books.

So if you're still paying a bunch of money to get your books formatted, think about looking up an application such as Jutoh. For about $40, you can format your own books, and save a bunch of money.

Blessings,
Eryn

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Teaser: 'Angel 911: Bullied'

Here's your Tuesday Teaser, from 'Angel 911: Bullied.'



This is from chapter 3.

Jake and I stepped into Granny Millie’s apartment behind her, which was decorated in warm brown, dark brick red, and tan colors. It was gorgeous, which made me wish this were my home instead of our apartment, since our furniture was old hand-me-downs. This place was so beautiful and the leather couches were so inviting. I could sit with my feet up in one of the two overstuffed chairs and never have to figure out how to keep them in front of me with a book on my lap.

I sniffed and smelled the cookies. “Did you need sugar?” I asked Granny Millie.

“We will for the next batch. But first, we need to make fried chicken.” She reached into her refrigerator and, as if by magic, she had at least eight pieces of chicken dipped in batter all ready to go into the giant fryer on the center island counter. It was as if she knew we were coming, which was very strange in itself. But eight pieces of chicken? Who else was she expecting and who was this lady, anyway?

As she flipped on the fryer, Granny Millie touched the side. “It was already hot, but I turned it off. It won’t be long now.” She lifted a banana from the center island and handed it to Jake. “Hungry?”

His innocent blue eyes studied the object. “What’s that?”

Granny shifted her gaze to mine. “He doesn’t know?”

“No.” I took it from her hand and put it in front of his eyes. “This is a banana. You peel it before eating it.” I directed my attention toward Granny again. “Thank you, from my brother.”

“How do you peel it?” he asked, grabbing it from me as he studied the stem. “It’s hard.” He hit it against the center island. I was afraid he’d hurt the marble countertop.

I sighed and seized the banana, broke the stem, and peeled it for him. It smelled wonderful. I remembered back to the days when Dad had been living with us and how we’d eaten lots of fruit. Jake wouldn’t remember, though, because he was three when Dad walked out. Dad didn’t want us and just disappeared one day.

“Would you like one, Heather?” Granny asked me, pointing to the bowl of fruit.

I crossed my arms. I didn’t need a friend. “I’m fine. So you’re going to work at my school?”

She lifted her eyes to mine, almost in surprise, and glanced toward my brother. “Jake, there are some toys in that toy box over there. See if there’s anything that looks like it would be fun.”

“Toys?” he asked her. “You have toys?”

She hesitated for a moment. “Don’t you have toys?”

“Don’t answer,” I said. Granny didn’t need to know anything else.

He headed toward the side of the room.

“Have a seat,” Granny said, pointing to a barstool. “I haven’t gotten a chance to meet many people. It would be nice to talk to someone.”

I sat down and studied her. There was no way I’d tell her anything about me or about my life. I had tons of secrets no one could ever know.

Granny dropped the chicken into the hot sizzling grease. “We’re going to have fried apples with this. Want to peel some with me?”

Since she was offering us a meal, I couldn’t refuse to help. “Sure.”

She fished two paring knives out of a drawer and handed me one. After opening a cabinet, she removed two empty bowls, bringing them to the island along with a huge colander of apples. “Use one bowl for the trash and the other for the peeled apples. These apples are already washed, so we can just eat the peelings, if you want. I hate things going to waste.”

I grabbed an apple, cut it in half, and removed the center core. I’d learned a lot in home economics classes, but we never had to peel anything at home, so it was kind of fun.

As I started to cut the outer skin off the apple, Granny brought me a glass of milk.

I lifted my eyes in disbelief. “For me?”

“Yes. Do you like milk?”

“It’s my favorite.” How could she know that?

“Want chocolate in it?”

Affected by the sentimentality of the thought, I blinked back the tears burning behind my eyelids. “Do you have any chocolate?”

She stared at me, but I didn’t know why. “Sure.” She paused for a moment. “Heather, you can tell me anything and I’m all ears. I promise I won’t tell anyone.” She brought me a spoon and the chocolate bottle from the refrigerator, setting them both in front of me. “What’s the matter?”

“It’s just been a while since I had chocolate milk. Thank you.” I put a little bit of chocolate into the milk and stirred.

“Oh, girl, you don’t know how to live. You need more.” She grabbed the bottle, opened the top, and squirted a ton of the chocolate into the milk. “Mix that and see if it’s any better.”

I chuckled at her, because she was right. I did need to live a little.

I stirred it and lifted the glass to my lips, the scent of the chocolate hitting my nose before I could take a sip. I gobbled it down, because in my mind, chocolate milk was the perfect dessert.

“Good?” she asked.

“The best.” I wiped my lips with my hand. “Man, that’s good.”

“Want more?” she asked. “I have maraschino cherries to drop to the bottom, to make it taste more like a sundae. It’s delicious.”

“No. I’m okay.” I didn’t want to be an ungracious guest. But cherries? I bet that would be good. “Thank you so much for that.”

While Granny made idle chatter, I grabbed the knife and peeled a few apples.

“So I got this new job,” she said. “I moved to this place because one of my best friends lives here.”

“But you didn’t move near your family?” I stuffed some of the apple peel into my mouth. I really missed eating apples. These fruits, though, were so sweet, tasting like they’d just been picked off the tree at the ripest of times.

She kept working. “I lived back East near my family for quite a while and it was time to have some fun. I heard the people in this apartment complex have a lot of fun.”

“If you’re old,” I muttered.

She laughed at me, shaking her head. “I can imagine. What’s your school like?”

“It’s not that big, I guess, compared to other schools, but it’s big to me. There are around eight hundred ninth through twelfth grade students in our school.”

“Will I get lost?” she asked, peeling her apple.

I watched what I was doing with the apple while eating the sweet red outer skins. “Naaah. It’s not that bad. Just don’t let on that you know me. They’ll make fun of you if you do.”

“Why is that?”

After sticking another piece into my mouth, I looked up at her, but she was watching her knife as she cut her apple.

“Well, I’m kind of the laughing stock of the school right now,” I said. “But it’s okay.”

She didn’t talk for a moment, her eyes still on her knife. “Why?”

“Why what?”

Her eyes lifted. “Why are you the laughing stock?”

I lowered my eyes, peeling again. “You really don’t want to know. It’ll pass…probably by the time I’m a senior.”



Enjoy!
Sweettale Books

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Fun: Latte art


Wow...have you ever seen latte art? Take a look at this link's artwork: thatsweird.net

Here's a demonstration of how they do it: Youtube.com

Now if I were given a cup with art like that in it, I don't know if I could drink it. AND if I had my choice of what the art would be, I'd want it to be a steaming cup of coffee in the top of the latte.

I know there are competitions about latte art. Here's one: coffeefest.com.

Oh man...how cool is this? I could write a book about this as the basis for a plot, I think...a murder mystery. Someone could die in a giant cup of latte art at a competition. And the killer would be...the judge who was just TIRED of drinking the lattes to see if they even tasted good. LOL! OR a customer who was tired of waiting for the barista artist to do all that work, when he just wanted a cup of coffee after a long night shift.

Yeah. My brain's weird. LOL!

Ciao,
Andie

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday Wisdom: Bookcovers are your Curb Appeal

If you're an indie author, not only do you have to write the book, market the book, and format the book, but have to make the cover appeal to readers so they'll buy the book (the ultimate goal).

Let's face it. Most writers aren't artists. They also don't have a ton of money to devote to book covers, because they can run between $20 and $300 a piece…and up (or so I've found).

So what do you do? For me, personally, I create my own, or have my daughter create mine (we bought her a student's version of Photoshop, since she had the class in school). I'd rather do my own, because she's 16 and has a teeny bit of an attitude with me, but she does a good job. She did these for me:



She also did this one for an upcoming second book in the Natalie series ('Diplomats'):



I did the rest of my covers myself. I downloaded Paint.net (free program) and studied different book covers on Amazon. I haven't figured out how to do blending well, but I can do the basics on Paint.net by using levels and various other tools. I also buy credits on fotolia.com for the pictures. That way, I have the rights to use the pictures. I also make my cover 600 X 900 pixels so it’ll be standard sized across distributor.

For my covers, I try to give an idea of what the book's about, use an easy-to-read font, and also look at it in thumbnail size and in black and white (which is what will show up on the Kindle before the title page). I try to keep the cover simple, so it's not distracting.

I did a web search to find a few articles to see what makes a good cover. Here's what I found:

http://www.graphic-design.com/DTG/Design/book_covers/index.html

http://www.readerviews.com/Articles-Marketing-HowToBookCovers.html

http://www.bloggersbase.com/literature/to-create-book-covers-sell/

http://www.lisatener.com/2010/02/book-covers-how-to-design-a-book-cover-that-sells/

http://kindle-author.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-create-book-cover-for-your.html

http://www.mywritingblog.com/2011/12/cover-story-should-writers-create-their.html

But what do the readers think? I had to go find out from my guru reader friend I meet for coffee once a week. I’ll call her ‘V’ to keep her anonymity. I took the extreme sacrifice to go out for coffee this morning (LOL!) with V (we always laugh for hours) and asked her what she thought. Now, V reads a lot, is intuitive and intelligent (she made me write that down). She’s a typical reader, middle-aged (she’s around my age of 50) and reads deep drama/dark fantasy/mystery books. She told me she mostly buys because of cover.

She’s given up on reading romances, because they’re always about beautiful people who end up having sex. She mentioned that the ‘girl needs to be ugly, too. Good looking people aren’t the only ones who have sex.’ Now realize, she wrote that on my piece of paper after a few cups of whatever she was drinking. LOL! She did say she likes eerie book covers with easy-to-read text in block letters. She said no sexy woman built like Barbie (it ticks her off to see that).

I asked her if she reads the reviews at the top on a typical Amazon page (she has a Kindle), and she says sometimes, but doesn’t put much stock in reviews. She did say she will read a few pages of the sample if she doesn’t know the author. She takes a look at the blurb, but the reviews at the bottom of the page might be written from young kids or people with an agenda, so she doesn’t put much stock in those.

She reinforced some of my thoughts…a good, easy-to-read cover that describes the book’s content. But she also mentioned that a book needs a great sample of the opening paragraphs (the hook). I never thought of the sample as part of the curb appeal, but she’s right. It is. That hook really matters.

So the next time you create a book cover, realize that the one thing that draws in your reader is the cover first. Make sure it looks professional and fits all requirements.

Smiles,
Markee